Are you in Brazil or Las Vegas?
I’m in Brazil for a little more than a month. I’m here in Rio training
What do you expect from this fight with James Irvin in the light-heavyweight division?
My training has been going pretty well. It’s a new experience that we are trying to do. I only train with people above my weight class, I have always trained this way. Lets wait and see how it goes. Coming out of my fights alive like I always do is something good, going back to my family is the most important thing. We made a chronogram of training and physical preparation, we studied it with some [knowledgeable] people, and we are going there to put it into practice, to see if everything we trained and innovated will work.
He said that you ran over the people from your weight class, and that he does not fear your game plan and that he will show you the reason why there are weight classes. What do you think of that?
I believe that weight classes exist for that reason, but when I used to fight in PRIDE there wasn’t a category up to 83kg (183lb) only 93kg (205lb), and I always fought in it. But I did not have the same physical and technical qualities I have today. It’s an experiment, we are doing it for many reasons, and one of them is because Dana White asked me to fight, and myself, along with my friends that help me a lot, have decided that it is doable. We’ll see, I will look to do my job like I have been doing regardless of the results, and I am going into it to test myself, to see if I can. If it turns out to be a positive result, it will mean that our experience plus our experiments worked. People own their own mouths, so he can say whatever he wants, and he is right about the reason for weight classes. I did not have the intention of going for this belt, this belt is Lyoto’s and he has proven that. I am going into this fight because I like to fight, I like challenges.
There is a rumor going around that your next fight will be against Yushin Okami… Is it true? What do you expect from this fight?
I haven’t confirmed that yet, but I believe it is possible. He won every fight he fought until now and gained credit to fight. We are still seeing how it would be. I don’t know how this fight would go, it is hard to say. It is a tough fight, he is a versatile athlete, he has great technical qualities. I think it would be a good fight, I would like it a lot.
The other fighter who people were saying that you were going to fight was Ricardo Almeida, who ended up losing to Patrick Cote. What did you think of that fight?
Every high level athlete has his ups and downs, he can win or lose, victory and defeat walk side by side. Unfortunately he lost and will have to get better. If we are to fight in the future it is a question of time, everyone is looking for his spot in the sun. I hope they keep having a lot of fighters so that I don’t lose my job.
What do you think of Cote as being another one getting in line to get the belt?
I think it is cool, the more athletes there are to test my technique, if I really deserve being the champion, the better it is. I will not be the champion forever, somebody will beat me, obviously, and that makes me stronger so that I can make the results positive. Winning or losing is there, walking side by side. I already lost, I’ve won, and there were times I didn’t fight. It won’t be anything out of this world for me if I lose. I train so that I can fight well. The result is the fruit grown from the job we did…More people will want to fight to get the belt, and I have to keep training to keep it.
Palhares had a great debut in his category and will now fight Dan Handerson. How do you think this fight will go?
I cannot say who will win. Logically, I want Palhares to win. He is young, and still has a lot to learn. Experience is very valuable to survive in the octagon. It will be a great fight, he will gain a lot of credit for it, and who knows, he might get a title shot in the near future. I hope he does great and I want him to win.
The UFC created Fight Night 14 to go against Affliction. What do you think of this event?
I do not think it is a dispute between the two, I think it is a way of showing how the sport is growing. The UFC has no competitor, UFC is the biggest in the world, so there is no dispute, and what happens is that unfortunately the two events are on the same date. UFC will broadcast on open television, which is very important for us and for the fans. I will do my job there.
What do you expect from Rogerio Minotauro’s fight in Affliction?
I expect him to win, like always. He is a person who has always helped me, I see him as a brother and he is doing very well, training strongly in the US with some people from Miami. The tendency is that he wins. Unfortunately we wont be together, he is preparing for his fight and so are we for ours, but we all want the best for him. We believe in his victory.
How is your academy in the U.S.?
It’s good, there are a lot of students, a lot of good things taking place, a lot of advertisement. We are very serious about it. Rodrigo (Minotauro) and Daniel Valverde are working in a very integral manner. Everyone is liking it. The tendency now is to open another one there in around 3 or 4 months.
What is the academy’s name?
“Team Nogueira.” I defend my team. It is the boss’s car [ed. note: this is some sort of Brazilian figure of speech, not a mis-translation] and I think it has to be kept that way, that will not change. We have always been together and that doesn’t change anything.
What do you expect from the title fight between Frank Mir and Minotauro?
I think it will be a good fight, it will be a good challenge for him. Frank Mir is coming from a win, he’s somebody who leaves no doubt about his capacity, he is a great fighter, but fighting against Rodrigo is complicated. We who train with him know that he always has a card under his sleeves. We really want him to win, and for sure he will do it.
(props to tatame for the interview and Luiz De Souza for the translation)